Thousands of armchair sky watchers are pairing computers and consumer-grade meteorological equipment to share their observations of local conditions online. Posted on personal Web sites or community weather pages, the data is helping neighbors and beginning to have a larger impact on meteorology, by shaping a more detailed view of weather patterns than was previously available.
“We use those reports,” said Mike Nelson, KMGH’s chief meteorologist. “It’s been useful for television to get more reports from all kinds of locales, compared to just the airport. The old joke goes, no one lives out there.”
Even without building Web sites, backyard meteorologists can contribute to the professional weather world. They can send their data to a number of organizations that aggregate the information and post it online.
One such group that has achieved official recognition is the Citizen Weather Observer Program (www.cwop.net), an association of weather watchers who collect information, share it online, and forward it to outlets like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s giant pool of freely available weather research data, the Meteorological Assimilation Data Ingest System.